Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Cisco Systems, Inc. hired “John Doe” in September 2015 to work as an engineer. Doe was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. Under the agreement, Cisco and Doe had to arbitrate “all disputes or claims arising from or relating to” Doe’s employment, including claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Several years after signing the agreement, Doe filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Cisco discriminated against him because of ancestry or race. He reported that two supervisors denied him opportunities and disparaged him because, under the traditional caste system of India, he was from the lowest caste and they are from the highest. Doe also accused Cisco of retaliating when he complained about being treated unfavorably because of his caste. The Department notified Cisco of Doe’s complaint, investigated it, and decided it had merit. Attempts at informal resolution were unsuccessful. The Department then filed a lawsuit against Cisco and the two supervisors. The Department alleged five causes of action alleging multiple violations of FEHA, and sought a permanent injunction preventing Cisco from committing further violations, and mandatory injunctive relief requiring Cisco to institute policies to prevent employment discrimination. The complaint also requested an order that Cisco compensate Doe for past and future economic losses. Cisco moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the agreement Doe signed. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Cisco argued the Department was bound by the terms of Doe’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the Department acts independently when it exercises the power to sue for FEHA violations. “As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered.” View "Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The San Diego City Attorney brought an enforcement action under the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. (UCL), on behalf of the State of California against Maplebear Inc. DBA Instacart (Instacart). In their complaint, the State alleged Instacart unlawfully misclassified its employees as independent contractors in order to deny workers employee protections, harming its alleged employees and the public at large through a loss of significant payroll tax revenue, and giving Instacart an unfair advantage against its competitors. In response to the complaint, Instacart brought a motion to compel arbitration of a portion of the City’s action based on its agreements with the individuals it hires ("Shoppers"). The trial court denied the motion, concluding Instacart failed to meet its burden to show a valid agreement to arbitrate between it and the State. Instacart challenged the trial court’s order, arguing that even though the State was not a party to its Shopper agreements, they were bound by its arbitration provision to the extent they seek injunctive relief and restitution because these remedies were “primarily for the benefit of” the Shoppers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s order. View "California v. Maplebear Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her former employer, Wood Ranch USA, Inc. (Wood Ranch) for compensatory and punitive damages on nine different causes of action. Wood Ranch moved to compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion and stayed the pending court proceedings. Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the trial court’s prior order compelling arbitration. Invoking sections 1281.97 and 1281.99, Plaintiff argued that Wood Ranch’s late payment of its share of the initiation fees constituted a material breach of the arbitration agreement.   The trial court granted the motion, and the Second Appellate District affirmed the court’s order vacating its earlier order compelling arbitration between the parties in this case. The appeal presents a question of first impression: Are these provisions preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA)? The court held that they are not because the procedures they prescribe further—rather than frustrate—the objectives of the FAA to honor the parties’ intent to arbitrate and to preserve arbitration as a speedy and effective alternative forum for resolving disputes.   The court explained that Sections 1281.97 and 1281.99 undeniably single out arbitration insofar as they define procedures that apply only to arbitrated disputes. But that they are arbitration-specific is not sufficient to warrant preemption by the FAA. Further, these sections in this case do not interfere with the FAA’s first goal of honoring the parties’ intent. Moreover, applying these sections, in this case, does not interfere with the FAA’s second goal of safeguarding arbitration as an expedited and cost-efficient vehicle for resolving disputes. View "Gallo v. Wood Ranch USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether a cross-complaint filed by Connor Callanan against Charles Menken, Steven Menken, and Grizzly Designs, LLC, dba Brotherly Love (collectively “the Menkens”) was a SLAPP suit subject to a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (known as the anti-SLAPP statute). The Menkens were “engaged in the research and development of various cannabis based products intended for marketing in the burgeoning cannabis market space.” Marino and Callanan owned and operated a business called UHSE Media LLC that provided media, marketing, and consulting services to the cannabis industry. In May 2019, the Menkens entered into an “oral agreement” with Marino and Callanan for such consulting services and agreed to pay them $30,000 each. The Menkens claimed that Marino and Callanan were independent contractors rather than employees. Marino and Callanan were “permitted” to live at the Menkens’ “business location” “as they deemed necessary” in order to do their consulting work, but they “were at all times free to come and go as they determined necessary and for their own purposes.” They began living and working at the Menkens’ business location in late May 2019. The Menkens contended “the substantial majority” of the work Marino and Callanan did on the farm was related to their independent media and consulting business, but that by November 2019, Marino and Callanan were failing to perform media and consulting services and were instead spending most of their time harvesting and processing cannabis. Marino and Callanan also began demanding sums of money “they believed they were entitled to under California’s wage and hour laws.” At this point, the parties’ relationship “became openly hostile” and Marino and Callanan (allegedly) set fire to a building that was used as an office and sleeping quarters, causing over $100,000 in damages. The Menkens contended Callanan’s cross-complaint was a SLAPP suit because it was filed in retaliation for a cross-complaint they filed against Callanan, and they filed a motion under section 425.16 seeking to strike it. The trial court granted the motion, and Callanan appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Callanan’s cross-complaint was not a SLAPP suit because none of his claims arose from the filing of the Menkens’ cross-complaint. View "Callanan v. Grizzly Designs, LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review in this case centered on whether California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1281.4 authorized the trial court to stay a plaintiff’s action on the basis of a pending arbitration to which the plaintiff was not a party. Ann Leenay brought an action against her former employer, Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC (Lowe’s), under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The trial court granted a petition to coordinate her action with a number of other PAGA actions against Lowe’s. Lowe’s then moved to stay the coordinated actions under section 1281.4. Lowe’s based the motion on over 50 arbitration proceedings against it, but Leenay and the other plaintiffs in the coordinated actions were not parties in any of those arbitration proceedings. The trial court granted the motion to stay, and Leenay filed a petition for writ of mandate asking the Court of Appeal to vacate the order. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred by granting the motion to stay. "[S]ection 1281.4 applies only when a court has ordered parties to arbitration, the arbitrable issue arises in the pending court action, and the parties in the arbitration are also parties to the court action. Under those circumstances, the court must stay the action (or enter a stay with respect to the arbitrable issue, if the issue is severable)." Those circumstances did not exist in this case. The Court therefore granted Leenay’s writ petition. View "Leenay v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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This case (1) involved the legal issue of whether an employee who settled individual claims against the employer for alleged Labor Code violations was subsequently barred by claim preclusion from bringing a Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 ("PAGA") enforcement action against the employer for the same Labor Code violations when, prior to settlement, the employee could have added the PAGA claims to the existing action; and (2) required the application of claim preclusion principles. The Court of Appeal determined that because the two actions involved different claims for different harms and because the State, against whom the defense was raised, was neither a party in the prior action nor in privity with the employee, the requirements for claim preclusion were not met. View "Howitson v. Evans Hotels" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as a sales associate at an AutoZone auto parts store operated by Defendant AutoZoners, (AutoZoners). Plaintiff filed the present suit asserting one claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (Lab. Code, Section 2699 et seq.) (PAGA). She asserted AutoZoners failed to provide suitable seating to employees at the cashier and parts counter workstations, as to which some or all of the work required could be performed while sitting. AutoZoners moved for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiff lacked standing to bring a representative action under PAGA because she was not aggrieved by AutoZoners’s seating policy.   The trial court agreed with AutoZoners and granted the motion. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court explained that no published California authority has considered what steps should be taken by an employer to “provide” suitable seating within the meaning of the wage order seating requirement. Thus, the court concluded that where an employer has not expressly advised its employees that they may use a seat during their work and has not provided a seat at a workstation, the inquiry as to whether an employer has “provided” suitable seating may be fact-intensive and may involve a multitude of job and workplace-specific factors.   Accordingly, resolution of the issue at the summary judgment stage may be inappropriate, because the undisputed facts create a triable issue of material fact as to whether AutoZoners “provided” suitable seating to its customer service employees at the front of the store by placing seats at other workstations in a separate area of the store. View "Meda v. Autozone" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as a driver for California Transit. After California Transit terminated his employment, Evenskaas filed this wage and hour class action against California Transit; its owner, and the company that administered California Transit’s payroll, Personnel Staffing Group, LLC (collectively, the California Transit defendants).   Because Plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement, in which he agreed to arbitrate all claims arising from his employment and waived his right to seek class-wide relief, the California Transit defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion. The California Transit defendants appealed, contending the FAA applies to the arbitration agreement.   The Second Appellate District reversed the order denying Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration is reversed. The court directed the trial court to enter a new order granting the motion and dismissing Plaintiff’s class claims. The court explained that because the paratransit services California Transit hired Plaintiff to provide involve interstate commerce for purposes of the FAA, the FAA applies to the arbitration agreement and preempts the Gentry rule that certain class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are unenforceable. View "Evenskaas v. California Transit, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2020, while wildfires swept through portions of Sonoma County, close to many homes, Sheriff Essick met with the County Board of Supervisors, fire officials, and members of the public in a streamed town hall meeting. Essick provided updates on an evacuation strategy and fielded questions from the public. When asked whether evacuated residents might be permitted to reenter mandatory evacuation zones to feed pets and animals left behind, Sheriff Essick refused to grant such permission, citing safety concerns. Sheriff Essick’s subsequent communications led to a harassment complaint. An independent investigator, Oppenheimer, conducted an inquiry and prepared a written report. A newspaper requested that the county release the complaint, the report, and various related documents) California Public Records Act (CPRA), Gov. Code 6250). The trial court denied Essick's request for a preliminary injunction barring the report's release. The court of appeal affirmed. The court rejected arguments that the Oppenheimer Report should be classified as confidential under CPRA exemptions for “peace officers” “personnel records,” or reports or findings relating to a complaint by a member of the public against a peace officer The county is not estopped from releasing the Oppenheimer Report nor bound to keep the results of the investigation confidential. Nothing in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights explicitly grants or mentions confidentiality from CPRA requests, Sonoma County is not Essick's “employing agency.” View "Essick v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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BPI owned property in unincorporated Humboldt County, with eight rental units, a post office, and its own water system. LaPaille served as CEO and CFO of BPI. From 2009-2016, Laurance and Elsie (plaintiffs) performed work for BPI, managing the water system and serving rent notices. BPI terminated their work when it suspected Laurance was not performing his maintenance jobs, was stealing supplies, and was using BPI’s water rights for a private venture. Plaintiffs were not paid for any work they performed for BPI apart from receiving free rent.Plaintiffs filed complaints, seeking regular and overtime wages, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties. The Labor Commissioner agreed and found LaPaille personally liable. The superior court concluded plaintiffs were BPI employees, entitled to minimum wages a certain number of hours per week, with interest on those amounts. It awarded statutory damages for BPI’s failure to provide a wage statement, waiting time damages, and travel expense reimbursements. The court concluded BPI acted in good faith, with reasonable grounds to believe it was not violating the Labor Code, and declined to award liquidated damages and penalties. It concluded LaPaille was not personally liable.The court of appeal reversed in part. The trial court miscalculated the statute of limitations, erred in declining to impose personal liability on LaPaille, and improperly calculated waiting time penalties. View "Seviour-Iloff v. LaPaille" on Justia Law